Following a 56-41 vote by the Virginia House of Delegates this morning to advance a discriminatory anti-LGBT bill, HRC and Equality Virginia, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization, called on the Virginia State Senate to reverse course and halt HB 773 when it comes up for consideration.
HB 773 — which passed over bipartisan opposition — would allow taxpayer-funded service providers to refuse to serve LGBT people based on their religious beliefs. Members of both parties also joined together to oppose the bill in committee late Thursday. Taxpayer-funded organizations like homeless shelters and adoption agencies would be able to invoke HB 773 in order to refuse service to same-sex couples, transgender people, and anyone suspected of having sex outside of a heterosexual marriage (such as single mothers or a cohabiting straight couple) without losing taxpayer funding, contracts, licensing, or other forms of state recognition.
“Senate leadership should think twice before passing a bill that would enshrine discrimination in state law,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Freedom of religion is a core American value, which is exactly why it is already protected by the First Amendment. But, rather than protecting our freedom, HB 773 is an indefensible attack on LGBT families and single mothers who would face the prospect of being denied service by taxpayer-funded agencies.”
“Today the House of Delegates made their opinion clear on government-authorized discrimination by passing HB 773. While we thank Delegate Sickles (D-43) and many other members for speaking in opposition to the bill, there are 56 delegates who still fail to understand what the majority of Virginians already believe: discrimination is not and can never be a founding principle in Virginia,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish. “Our hope now is that our elected leaders in the Senate will stand up against this harmful legislation and properly represent their constituents across the commonwealth.”
Two anti-LGBT bills (HB 781 and HB 385) were defeated in committee last week. While the Virginia Senate recently passed two LGBT non-discrimination bills, SB 67 and SB 12, similar legislation last year failed to pass the House of Delegates.
Among the anti-LGBT bills introduced in Virginia this session are: attempts to undermine marriage equality; proposals aimed at authorizing individuals, businesses and taxpayer-funded agencies to cite religion as a legal reason to refuse goods or services to LGBT people; a bill to prevent state universities and public schools from adopting LGBT non-discrimination protections; a bill to prevent transgender Virginians from changing their birth certificates to match their identity and multiple bills seeking to restrict transgender people from using facilities consistent with their gender identity.
A recent survey released in Indiana showed that anti-LGBT religious refusal bills cost the state as much as $60 million in convention revenue alone from lost business. The survey from “Visit Indy” found that “12 out-of-state groups were surveyed and all said that the state’s controversial religious objections law played a role in their decision to hold their events elsewhere.”
The attacks on fairness and equality in Virginia are part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT billsbeing pushed in 2016 by anti-equality activists around the country. HRC is currently tracking 150 anti-LGBT bills in 30 states. For more information, visit:www.hrc.org/2016legislature.